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Margaret Kitonga

Disabled by polio at the age of 8, Margaret has gathered a group of other villagers coping with physical and mental handicaps in this unforgiving landscape...

· Africa,Reforestation,Kenya
Margaret Kitonga, TIST Farmer

In my Small Group I am like any other, an independent woman in my home.

Disabled by polio at the age of 8, Margaret has gathered a group of other villagers coping with physical and mental handicaps in this unforgiving landscape. She is vocal and fearless, petit, unstoppable as she drags her leg beside her, not a burden but reminder that she can overcome any obstacle whether it's a stranger's attitude or physical barrier.

Education is often withheld from disabled people in Kenya so the TIST training, "has made me feel at home with myself," she says, "doing anything is possible." She has traveled widely to train others, studied the many levels of TIST "Best Practices" and participates regularly in a TIST practice called "building up" where each person is lifted up by positive comments shared within the group. Out in the world, "we are not considered as people," Margaret says but "in my Small Group I am like any other, an independent woman in my home".

Started in 2005, they are the Mugana Disabled Group whose three-dozen members have the passion of converts. Often these people are passed by and ignored by the larger population. It is assumed they have neither the resources nor the capability to be full members of a social, cultural or environmental group. But the Mugana small group has proven everyone wrong by being one of the most productive in the TIST roster. TIST, Margaret says, has given them the practical tools for group and individual development seeing them as equal partners. It is that sense of belonging and belief that has these folks in the dirt planting, selecting seeds for the next crop of trees and meeting with a TIST quantifier on a steamy day.

The messages planted by TIST are uplifting in a practical sense as well bringing information about special low fuel use stoves (like the one in Margaret's kitchen), irrigation techniques, and planting best practices such as raised seed beds. But they are also supportive in a spiritual sense, lifting self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment as the Mugana TIST Small Group goes about its daily activities.

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